It might seem strange to describe a $117,000 car as "entry level," but that's exactly what the Aston Martin V8 Vantage is. Meant to sell in greater volumes than its larger and more expensive brand mates, the V8 Vantage is aimed squarely against lofty, performance-proven competitors from Germany.
Like most of the cars from this iconic British brand, it is simply gorgeous. At the same time, Aston upped the fun-to-drive quotient in the Vantage to make it a true sports car rather than a grand tourer like the DB9. Although many have said the V8 Vantage is the best-driving Aston Martin ever, it still falls short of the Porsche 911 in terms of overall performance. Yet, that car is practically ubiquitous compared to the rare Aston, which will always have an advantage in terms of cool sophistication and dazzling visual allure. The V8 Vantage is one instance where the "entry level" is a wonderful place to be.
Current Aston Martin V8 Vantage
The Aston Martin V8 Vantage seats two people and is available as a hatchback coupe and a convertible roadster. There are two trim levels that deliver a different degree of performance: Vantage and Vantage S. The V12 Vantage is reviewed separately.
Both models seat only two people and come with almost identical features. Standard items include 19-inch wheels, xenon headlights, a 10-way-adjustable power sport driver seat, automatic climate control, a six-CD changer, auxiliary audio jack and iPod interface. Leather upholstery is also standard, and is available in nearly countless color combinations, giving buyers the option of a fully customized interior. Curiously, common items like cruise control, Bluetooth, heated seats and seat memory are options on this car that costs more than $100,000. The Vantage S at least gets the cruise control and Bluetooth along with revised suspension tuning and unique styling elements. A pair of upgraded audio systems and a Garmin-sourced navigation system are optional on both.
For power, the base V8 Vantage relies on a 4.7-liter V8 capable of 420 horsepower and 346 pound-feet of torque. The Vantage S gets a version of the same engine bumped up to 430 hp and 361 lb-ft of torque. A six-speed manual transmission is standard on the base car, while a seven-speed single-clutch automated manual transmission is optional on the base Vantage and standard on the Vantage S.
Inside, the Vantage has an overall look that's nearly identical to every other Aston Martin. Expect high-end leather and other trim types, but build quality not up to the level of Porsche. The Vantage's interior is smaller, however, with only two seats. The coupe's hatchback trunk can swallow 10.6 cubic feet of stuff, while the roadster has a typically small 5 cubes of space. The roadster's power-operated cloth soft top can be lowered in 18 seconds, even at speeds of up to 30 mph.
In reviews of the Aston Martin V8 Vantage, we've found that it is indeed a true sports car. On curvy roads, it moves confidently, sliding progressively and returning to its intended path with little drama. Its steering and chassis are highly communicative, delivering useful information about what's happening between tire and pavement.
The roadster's added weight hampers its handling and performance somewhat, but it still offers plenty of grip and high-speed composure. We did note, however, that neither Vantage models matches the performance levels of more mainstream rivals, while the narrow seats and footwells may be uncomfortable for larger drivers.
Used Aston Martin V8 Vantage Models
The Aston Martin V8 Vantage debuted for the 2006 model year only in the coupe body style with a six-speed manual transmission. The roadster and a traditional six-speed automatic transmission were available thereafter. Prior to '08, V8 Vantages lacked steering-wheel audio controls, an auxiliary audio jack and console-mounted cupholders and featured a body-mounted antenna (versus glass-embedded). The 2008 model year also featured the limited-production high-performance Vantage N400, which would be quite the find at your local exotic used car shop.
The most important distinction between the current V8 Vantage and those built prior to '09 is that the engine displaced 4.3 liters, with an output of 380 hp and 302 lb-ft of torque. The suspension and Sportshift automatic transmission also didn't have the revisions given to the '09 car. These earlier Vantages also had a less ergonomic and attractive center control stack, as well as an older, DVD-based optional navigation system. A newer hard drive nav became standard the next year, but it still wasn't good, and was eventually replaced for 2012 by a Garmin-sourced unit.
The Vantage S was not available until 2012.